As many people learned first-hand during pandemic lockdowns, social isolation can take a significant toll on health and well-being. Older adults often become isolated when adult children move away from home, a spouse passes, or they are unable to drive to participate in social, cultural, or spiritual events. New research has found that more frequent social interactions among seniors may be linked with a significantly longer lifespan.
According to a recent Courier-Tribune report, a new study of more than 28,000 Chinese seniors analyzed how social activity may be associated with overall survival. Participants in the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey (CLHLS), an ongoing study of independently living older adults, were asked how often they engage in social activities: nearly every day, at least once a week, at least once a month, occasionally, or never.
Researchers also accounted for other factors that may influence longevity including education, marital status, household income, and diet. Survival of study participants, with a mean age of 89, was tracked for an average of five years or until death. Findings, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, demonstrated that the greater the frequency of social activity among older adults, the greater the likelihood of living longer.
Compared with seniors who reported they never socialized, older adults who participated in social activity nearly every day experience an 87 percent delay in the time of death. Being able to socialize daily is influenced by many factors that could also affect longevity including age, education level, marriage, living in a town or city, living with family, and overall good health.
Still, social interaction can offer many benefits to help older adults maintain healthier lifestyle habits such as increased physical activity and a healthier diet. Surrounding older adults with people who encourage healthy behaviours and provide a buffer against chronic stress helps to promote greater mental, emotional and physical well-being. Successful aging and quality of life are enhanced with not only physical activity, a healthy diet, not smoking and limiting or avoiding alcohol, social connection is critical for a long and meaningful life.
Spring is just around the corner and as the weather improves it becomes easier for older adults to enjoy more social participation. Check out community center activities, or join a Meetup for local hiking and walking groups, exercise classes, gardening clubs, book clubs or continuing education classes. It’s never too late to make new friends.